Using Technology to Teach Life Skills to Youth

mom-and-teen-girl-cooking-vertTechnology has significantly changed the way we do things and the way we interact with those around us. In many ways, it has improved our lives and given us new opportunities, but it also has the potential for dominating our lives and eating up time that could be spent in more productive ways.

Pew Research Center recently released a report about teen’s social media and technology usage. The survey collected data from over 1,000 youth, ages 13-17. Here are some of the statistics they discovered:

  • 92% of teens go online daily, and 56% go online several times a day
  • 24% of teens report they are online “almost constantly”
  • almost 75% of teens have access to a smartphone
  • 71% of teens use more than one social media network site
    • Facebook is the most popular with 71% of teens using the site, though many teens are switching to other media options
      • used more frequently by boys than girls, older teens (age 15-17), and teens in lower income families (earning less than $50,000)
    • 50% use Instagram
      • this site is more popular among girls
    • approximately 40% use Snapchat
      • teens from affluent homes were more likely to visit this site
  • a typical teen sends and receives 30 texts per day
  • 33% of teens use messaging apps like Kik or WhatsApp


Before technology was rooted so deeply in our lives, parents role modeled many practical life skills, such as cooking, laundry, and financial literacy. Now, teens (and sometimes parents, too!) are too busy looking at a screen to even notice how these things are done. Never before have so many teens headed to college with a lack of basic life skills. Parents should take charge to teach skills their teen will need to transition smoothly into adulthood, and perhaps the best way to do that is to incorporate technology whenever possible. Here are a few life skills that parents should teach teens:

Cooking. Teens need to learn how to cook simple meals. If they aren’t able to cook, they will rely on fast food and take-out which is bad both for their health and their budget. While your teen may rather post on Facebook and let you cook their dinner, you should insist that they help you in the kitchen occasionally. The great thing is that you can encourage your teen to use their technology for this skill, such as getting a cooking app that offers recipes and “how-to” videos.

Staying healthy. Teens should know how to stay healthy – proper nutrition, exercise, and stress management techniques. But, they should also know when they should go to a doctor (what symptoms are concerning), how to find a physician, and how to set up an appointment. There are a wide range of apps that teens can use to get exercise routines, music to exercise, health monitoring, calorie counting, and more.

Making a phone call. Don’t laugh! Today’s teens rarely talk on the phone. Instead, they use text messages and social media to arrange plans with friends. As a result, many of them have no idea how to schedule an appointment or conduct a professional conversation over the phone. Give your teen opportunities to practice phone etiquette by allowing him to schedule his own appointments or inquire about services offered by a business.

Talking face-to-face. With teens spending so much time behind screens, they don’t always know proper manners. Make sure your teen knows how to shake hands and make eye contact with someone they are meeting.

Housekeeping. While they may disagree, teenagers really should know how to do basic chores, such as cleaning bathrooms and doing laundry. They will need to be able to do this type of housekeeping whether they are moving to college or just moving out on their own. Again, there are apps available for cleaning that could make this chore a little more engaging to your teen.

Mailing a letter. Email has almost replaced traditional letters, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything over the Internet. There will be times in the future when your child will need to send a traditional letter, such as a cover letter and resume to a potential employer. Sadly, many of today’s teens have no idea how to write a letter or how to address an envelope. Don’t assume your teen has learned these skills in school – teach them yourself.

Managing money. If you don’t want your child to get into debt, you must take the time to teach your teen how to make a budget, balance a checking account, manage a credit card responsibly, and pay bills. Encourage your teen to get an app for tracking their spending and making a budget.

Final Thoughts…

Instead of letting today’s technology negatively shape your teen, intervene now to ensure your child is shaped by experiences and lessons that you provide. Wherever possible, incorporate their love of technology to teach them valuable skills they can use. If you invest time into helping your teenager develop these lifelong skills, you are increasing their opportunity to be successful in adulthood.

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